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Current Issue

Spring 2021

The Excerpt

“Using evidence to make decisions is common sense.”

Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research
By Senior Lecturer Carrie Conaway and Nora Gordan, 2020

Common Sense Evidence“We’ve written this book in response to education leaders who tell us they don’t want or need technocrats to tell them what to do. Instead, educators want to improve their schools using the best tools and information they can. Our book meets this authentic demand for evidence. We’ll show you how to build research skills that will enrich and diversify the information you draw on. To build these skills, you will need to use the existing research base and learn from your own organizations’ work. Common-sense evidence means using a wide variety of information sources in service of students — not using research for the mere sake of eing perceived as evidence-based.

“We are professional researchers, and we love working with people who want to lead with evidence and would like a little help in learning how. After years of formal training in statistics and research methods, we’ve each spent two decades conducting our own research, reviewing others’ research, and trying to make sense of literature full of contradictory findings. We have taught graduate and undergraduate courses in education policy, economics, and research methods, and we’ve spent a great deal of time helping professionals, including education practitioners, policy makers, and journalist, interpret research.

“Our research colleagues produce work of great value, and we want to help education leaders benefit from this source of information. But as researchers, we also know the limitations of research. Education leaders need to learn how to determine how relevant and convincing the research is and build their own evidence to inform their work. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, education leaders and practitioners can indeed engage with ‘real’ research. They don’t need to be spoon fed oversimplified results. We ourselves rely on a streamlined, intuitive process in our day-to-day work, and we think educators can too. And the good news is this: the process relies far less on advanced statistics and more on common sense than you might expect."